Labour’s Changing Membership – and why it matters

Below is an article I have written for the Fabian Society – please let me know your thoughts: 

The increase in Labour’s membership is profound. Reports suggest an additional 170,000 members have joined, including the 60,000 since Jeremy Corbyn became Leader of the Opposition. These numbers are unprecedented and should be a cause for deep celebration. But who are the people who’ve joined us, and what might they mean for the make-up of our membership?

Most coverage of our expanding size before Corbyn’s election focused on potential “entryists” or mischievous Tories, but now we must reflect on the significant change taking place in terms of the party’s composition.

Previous Fabian articles have touched on the split between the “old core” (white, working class, stable communities) and “new core” (egalitarian, university-educated, public sector workers and BAME communities) of the Labour Party. Is the same now happening with Party membership?

Talking to colleagues across the country, it certainly appears that the Party across England is becoming more like the Party in London. The vast majority of new members come from the middle classes, the public sector and BAME communities, all sharing a distinctly cosmopolitan outlook. This makes perfect sense, of course – polling suggests these groups are least likely to be concerned about immigration and most concerned by cuts to the public sector. So they’re much more likely to be attracted to Jeremy Corbyn’s clear policy approach in these areas.

As a result, the membership of wards in middle class areas is growing much faster than wards in working class areas. Membership is also growing fastest in London and slowest in the North East.

All new members are welcome, but we need to recognise that the revival in membership is not happening equally across the country, or even equally within constituencies or communities. As a result, the overall character of Labour Party membership is shifting.

This shift in the composition poses a number of challenges for Labour, not least how the party can develop a coherent vision that appeals to both sections of its membership. Before it can unite its “new core” and “old core” voters, Labour needs to unite its “new core” and “old core” membership.

The Labour Party’s structures and meeting culture remain broadly unchanged from thirty years ago. They take place within a strange environment, using abbreviations and language almost never used outside of the reified confines of these particular meetings. It is not surprising that Labour’s unique bureaucracy and language is off-putting to the Party’s more traditional members.

Members also tend, understandably, to select candidates who share their views and values. We have a problem, then: if Labour’s membership is becoming greater in number, but less diverse in its outlook and composition, how does the Party train and select candidates who represent other perspectives that are more closely allied with its traditional voters? Put bluntly, Labour could struggle to select more working class members when working class members make up a smaller and smaller proportion of our membership.

Similarly, Stella Creasy has set out the risk of Labour becoming “the public sector party”. If Labour’s new members are overwhelmingly drawn from the public sector and its associated professions, how do we reassure voters that Labour understands the private sector and is sympathetic towards it?

This should be of serious concern to the party, particularly in the wake of the Tories’ recent positioning – ludicrous as it is – of themselves as the “workers’ party”. The Tax Credits debacle has blunted that attack, but we must assume that the Tories will return to this theme and continue to push a message that has the potential to split Labour further from its traditional support. 

The unprecedented increase in the number of Party members is extremely welcome and provides Labour with scale, skills and opportunities it has not had in living memory. But the Party must also ensure its membership reflects our country and our communities in all ways, especially among those who would benefit most from a Labour government. To build the broad, united movement we all want, Jeremy Corbyn must first address this particular challenge of Labour’s unprecedented, but also unequal, revival.

Jack Scott is a Sheffield City Councillor, and a former PPC.  He tweets at  @Jack_Scott.  

The original article is here

Sheffield’s Response to the Refugee Crisis

 

A number of constituents – with the full range of views – have contacted me in recent weeks concerning the refugee crisis in Syria and the Council’s response, so I thought I would post the text below.

I appreciate that the position below won’t please everyone and I understand there are different perspectives. But having worked with refugees over a number of years and spoken recently to people who have experienced persecution and abuse and made their way here, I couldn’t support a position that didn’t reflect our common and shared humanity.
Councillor Jack Scott and Councillor Mike Drabble at a meeting in Arbourthorne, saying "Refugees Welcome"

Councillor Jack Scott and Councillor Mike Drabble at a meeting in Arbourthorne, saying “Refugees Welcome”


As the UK’s first City of Sanctuary, we will play our part in the resettlement of Syrian refugees as part of the UK’s response to the refugee crisis.

The British government determines how many refugees are allowed into the country and has committed to take 20,000 people over five years from refugee camps in countries bordering Syria.

In Sheffield we have a strong tradition of helping those fleeing persecution. We were the first authority to take part in the Government’s Gateway Protection Programme and have done so for the last 11 years. We already have a funded agreement to resettle 130 refugees from other countries this year (2015/16).

The current situation is a great concern to us. So we have made an immediate offer to Government to resettle ten to fifteen families from Syria as soon as possible, and are open to further talks with them about playing our part in the future national resettlement programme. This is in addition to our current Gateway agreement.

We have offered to take this number initially as we know we can successfully resettle fifty people immediately. We will continue to play our part in resettlement as part of the national programme after this first phase.

The support provided to people will be directly funded by Central Government. This is essential because we know, through our experiences over the last decade, that we need the resources in place to support people. Support includes housing support, English language teaching, and support in finding work.

We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of Sheffield people wanting to help. We are working with other organisations and local charities to pull together information on how people can volunteer and donate to support people fleeing Syria.

In the meantime people who want to make a donation to help support refugees can do this online through the Refugee Council at www.refugeecouncil.org.uk


I hope this is a useful update. If you require more information, please contact me.
Yvette Cooper’s speech on this issue is also well worth reading.

Streets Ahead Celebrates Second Birthday

Streets Ahead is two years old! Listen to my interview here:

 

From Ewden in the North to Totley in the South, Tinsley in the East to Bradfield in the West, Streets Ahead is transforming and improving Sheffield’s roads, pavements and streetscene.

 

The 25 year programme has celebrated its second anniversary with the announcement that nearly 250 miles of road have been resurfaced along with more than 300 miles of pavements and footpath and that over 22,000 pot holes have been repaired.

 

In addition, street cleaning teams routinely empty 3,334 bins each week, 14,322 new LED streetlights have been installed and 64 new traffic signal schemes have been completed.

 

Cllr Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene, said: “We are very proud of the Streets Ahead project and delighted to be celebrating our 2nd anniversary. Over the past two years we have seen what a huge difference the project is making across the city. We can see better lighting; smoother roads and pavements and an improving streetscene.

 

“We have experienced some challenges on the way but we never expected this project to happen overnight. We are working hard to address some of the challenges and are confident that the city will continue to see their streets improving for the better.”

 

Rob Allen the Streets Ahead Business Director said: “These figures give some idea of the scale and scope of the Streets Ahead project which was launched in August 2012 to provide Sheffield with a highways network that is second to none.

 

“It is the biggest, most ambitious project of its kind in the UK and as such, has provided us with some big challenges.

 

“Looking at highways alone, we have committed to bringing Sheffield’s roads up to standard by August 2017, from the heavily used main routes that carry the bulk of the city’s commuters to side streets choked with parked cars.

 

“In order to achieve this we have to send out hundreds of thousands of letters to residents, closed roads, manage traffic, put  diversions in place, worked at night and ask residents to move their cars.

 

“Our work does cause people inconvenience but once the first five years of the contract are over, the city and its residents will be able to enjoy the benefits of smooth roads and pavements, brighter and more energy efficient LED lighting and improved road drainage.”

 

Key achievements by Streets Ahead include:

 

  • Resurfaced roads: 246.5 miles
  • Resurfaced pavements: 302 miles
  • Numbers of reported potholes repaired: 22,682
  • New street light lanterns installed: 14,322
  • Street cleaning: 3,334 bins are emptied every week, 500-600 tonnes of litter are collected every month and street cleaning teams have responded to 23,127 reports of litter, flytipping and graffiti.
  • Grass cutting: More than 25 million square metres of grass verges have been cut, the equivalent of 5050 football pitches.
  • 141 Structures repaired, strengthened and restored: from bridge strengthening schemes to culverts.
  • Number of drainage gullies replaced: 1,349, and 131,901 cleaned.

Speech to Full Council: The Great British Rip Off

Anyone who has spoken to people in Sheffield will be amazed at the LibDem motion. I don’t think I have ever seen a motion that is so out-of-touch, so aloof and so smug. Crisis – what crisis?

Of course, any improvement in the British economy is very welcome, however weak and however overdue.

But nobody should be in any doubt about this change  – it is for the South East, it is for the rich and it is for the short-term.

Let’s remember that 93% of people on zero-hour contracts don’t get any benefit from the rise in tax allowance whatsoever. The increase in tax allowance is almost entirely used by people earning over £30k – it doesn’t benefit the lowest paid whatsoever.

  • So if the economy is doing so well, why is the government planning to borrow an extra £190 billion MORE than they planned?
  • If the economy is doing so well, why does the IFS say an extra 400,000 children will be in poverty by 2015?
  • If the economy is doing so well, why are Councils being told to brace themselves for another 4 years of even more savage cuts?
  • If the economy is doing so well, why are over 850,000 young people still out of work?
  • If the economy is doing so well, why are living standards still falling?

The answer is because the economy isn’t nearly strong enough. Most working people are not feeling a recovery at all. And even worse, it is built on another housing bubble AND confined to one part of the country AND helping the richest the most.

The Lib-Dems and Tories may be happy with an economy that is low-wage, low-pay and low security, but Sheffield deserves better.

  • That’s why Labour would guarantee a job for every young person out of work for more than a year.
  • That’s why Labour would clamp down on exploitative zero hour contracts.
  • That’s why Labour will freeze energy bills for homes and businesses for two years.

Our communities need real action now, not the LibDems telling people they should feel richer and should be grateful for all the kind things the LibDems have done for them.

So let me finish by saying that if the Liberal Democrats want to make this general election a fight over who can stand up best for families, who can create good jobs and who can help with the cost of living crisis – I have only three words to say to them: Bring it on.

 

[[CHECK AGAINST ACTUAL DELIVERY]]]

Streets Ahead Team Thank Visitors to Tour De France

 

Welcome to Sheffield!

As the city recovers from celebrating the Tour de France the Streets Ahead team has sent its thanks to all the visitors and residents who did their bit to make it such a success.

 

The Streets Ahead team worked for months in the run up to the event to ensure the route and the whole city looked its best to welcome the riders and visitors from across the world.

 

As well as surveying the whole route to ensure street furniture, trees and walls would stand up to the expected crowds, more than four miles of road were resurfaced and  street furniture – including traffic signals, road islands, speed bumps and bollards – were temporarily removed. These will be re-instated over the coming weeks.

 

Over four and a half tonnes of litter were collected along the route afterwards.

 

Cllr Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene, said: “The Tour de France was a fantastic event and we would like to thank all Sheffielders and visitors to our city for making it a success. Everyone had a great time. We have had feedback from the Tour organisers who were very pleased with our organisation, the condition of the route and the support they received from all the spectators. It’s especially good that we have been able to get the city cleaned up and back to normal at double quick time.

 

“We will build on our investment in hosting the prestigious Tour de France cycle race by using it to encourage more people to take to their bikes.”

 

Robert Allen, Business Director for Streets Ahead, said: “We had hundreds of employees working intensively in the days and nights running up to the event and over 100 were in action across the city on the day to ensure the Tour de France passed through smoothly.

 

“The clean-up operation afterwards was given a helping hand by all the spectators, who used the hundreds of litter bins and bags we provided. We would like to thank Sheffield for its support.”

Street Cleaners Fill Into Fargate to Give Anti-Littering Message

The Street Cleaning Flash Mob!

The Street Cleaning Flash Mob!

Shoppers on Fargate had a surprise when they found themselves surrounded by yellow clad street cleaners who gave their anti-littering message in their own unique way.

The cleaners were accompanied by college student Becky Friskney singing the Lulu hit ‘Shout’ as a way of shouting about the city’s new Stainless Sheffield campaign. They were also accompanied by the campaign mascot Phil the Bin who entertained on lookers with this dance moves.

The ‘Keep Sheffield Stainless’ campaign was launched earlier in the year to encourage people to take pride in their communities and play their part in keeping the city clean.

Cllr Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene, said: “We are immensely proud of our city and work hard to ensure that it is clean and stainless. We have over 120 street cleaners across the city working day in day out to ensure that the city is kept clean.

“However, litter is something that is very noticeable and if each resident, business or visitor disposed of their litter responsibly then we could ensure it was a better place for everyone to live in.”

The Street Cleaning Manager for Streets Ahead, Sara Bradley said: “People don’t always notice street cleaners but they certainly noticed them today!

“It was all a bit of fun but behind it there was a serious message we really wanted to shout about, which is why we chose the Lulu song.

“We work really hard to keep the city looking its best but everyone can play their part by using the litter bins provided, including an increasing number of recycling bins.

“These will both help the environment and reduce the amount of rubbish that goes to landfill.”

For more information on Streets Ahead works visit http://www.sheffield.gov.uk/streetsahead